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Reineke introduces bill to allow wind farm referendums

PHOTOS SUBMITTED At top, State Rep. Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) and State Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) take questions during a press conference at the Statehouse in Columbus Wednesday morning announcing the introduction of a bill in the House and the Senate that would give township residents a voice in the construction of industrial wind turbine projects in their communities. Above, (front from left) Seneca County Commissioner Shayne Thomas, Commissioner Tony Paradiso, McColley, Reineke and Commissioner Mike Kerschner pose for a photo with Seneca County residents (back row) who made the trip to Columbus for the bill announcement at the conclusion of the press conference. State Rep. Craig Riedel (R-Defiance), who is from Attica, speaks during the press conference.

COLUMBUS — Ohio Rep. Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) and Ohio Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) Wednesday announced they are introducing companion bills that would grant local townships the ability to approve or reject wind farm projects via local referendum.

They made the announcement during a news conference at the Ohio Statehouse, according to a news release.

The legislation would make a certificate or an amendment to an existing certificate for a project effective only after 90 days. During those 90 days, the release said the local electorate in the affected townships would have the ability to file a petition for a referendum with the local board of elections.

The petition would require the signatures of at least 8% of qualified electors who voted in the last gubernatorial election in that township. Should the petition receive the required number of signatures, the release said the decision would be put before voters in the next primary or general election.

“Our intent with this legislation is to give property owners more control over what happens in their backyard,” Reineke said in the release. “No one should be told how to manage their property by outsiders, and these permissive township referendums will allow voters to effectively voice their opinion on whether or not these projects are a good fit for their community.”

“This bill represents an important step in getting power back in the hands of the people,” McColley said in the release. “The presence of wind turbines in a given area can have drastic impacts on property values, desirability, and safety; thus, local residents absolutely deserve to have a say in wind development siting, and should not just be at the mercy of bureaucrats in Columbus. I am confident that this grassroots-effort legislation will bridge the gap, and give residents the autonomy over their property and communities that they need and deserve.”

Also attending the news conference was State Rep. Craig S. Riedel (R-Defiance), originally from Attica, who supports the legislation and signed on as a co-sponsor to the bill.

“This referendum gives local control to the townships,” Riedel said in the release. “It allows wind development projects to move forward where they are welcome and stops projects that are not welcomed by the townships.”

Reineke is in his third term representing the 88th district, which includes Seneca and Sandusky counties.

A news release from his office said he is introducing the legislation because renewable energy companies are seeking to build wind farms, which many times infringe on the private property rights of Ohioans, including in Seneca and Sandusky counties.

In May, Reineke submitted the referendum legislation as an amendment to House Bill 6, known as the Ohio Clean Air Program. The bill passed, but the amendment was not included. While the measure passed in the House, the Ohio Senate removed the amendment from the bill so it could be considered in separate legislation, the release said.

“I believe that all people affected by these projects deserve to have a voice,” Reineke said in the release. “I hope this bill gives new energy to the conversation about property rights and the concerns with large-scale wind turbine projects.

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